Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Not Considering Roundup and Slaughter to Deal with CFB Suffield Elk

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Not Considering Roundup and Slaughter to Deal with CFB Suffield Elk

Article excerpt

Alberta not considering CFB Suffield elk roundup

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EDMONTON - Alberta has discouraging words for ranchers about a proposal to round up and kill thousands of wild elk that live on military base rangeland, but jump fences to eat and trample private crops.

Ranchers and community leaders say the growing elk herd at CFB Suffield in the province's southeast has been out of control for years and hunting alone will not reduce it to a manageable size.

Fed up with lack of action, a group of people submitted a draft proposal to the province in July that calls for humanely capturing about 1,500 elk each year, moving the animals to an elk farm and slaughtering them over time at a provincially approved abattoir.

The meat would be donated to food banks.

Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett said he knows people are concerned about the herd, but the Suffield elk proposal is not the way to go.

"Right now it isn't what we are looking at. We think it can be managed in a different way," he said. "We want to manage this species through a longer-term strategy with hunting licences."

Fawcett said the government is concerned about the cost of the proposal, which was put together by the owner of the abattoir in consultation with ranchers, community leaders and the Medicine Hat Food Bank.

He suggested it would also be challenging to get the federal government to approve a plan that would involve access to a military base with security concerns.

"One of the problematic factors to this issue is that we are dealing with a federal agency. And there are some very strict rules about access to this particular piece of land."

The Suffield elk were brought to the base in 1997 and 1998 from Elk Island National Park near Edmonton to introduce grazing animals to the region.

Over time the 200 elk multiplied to between 6,000 and 8,000 animals. Along with damage to crops, some ranchers are worried the elk could spread animal maladies such as tuberculosis and brucellosis to cattle.

To deal with the burgeoning population, the province started issuing hunting licences a few years ago.

In 2012, the Alberta government gave out 200 hunting tags for female elk. …

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